Our Visible Universe

I’m grateful today that I got to make Fried Artichoke Sandwiches for Boyz Lunch. The recipe came to my attention a couple of months ago, but it wasn’t until this week that I had (almost) all the ingredients to make it. There was no organic red cabbage, so I substituted green; and there were no more dill pickle slices in the pantry, so I used dill pickle relish. The overall effect was, I assume, essentially what was intended. I was grateful, as always, to have the right tools for the job, notably the Fry Baby to deep fry the battered artichoke hearts. I served the sandwiches with smashed, roasted potatoes. It was a simple lunch, and so delicious that the Boyz put it on their short list and said I could make it again any time. If I only had an actual short list, it would include several dozen ‘Top Five’!

The slaw is made with vegan jalapeño-ranch dressing, but I just used regular mayo, Penzeys ranch seasoning, and one pickled jalapeño, along with the fresh lime juice.
It certainly fulfilled my craving for a fried fish sandwich; all I really wanted was the crunchy, light ‘meat’ and the drippy coleslaw. The artichoke flavor was a bonus. Life’s simple pleasures!
Dessert was easy: one giant Trail Mix cookie for each of us. It was a perfect fall day, with perfect weather, great food, and wonderful company.

Later, after lunch, cleanup, and a work meeting, Wren and I sat by the pond and read a little more of our gripping nine-hundred-page novel, the third in The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. I’m grateful for the luxury of being able to toggle between the fantasy world of a novel, and the real world of my back yard which is just as amazing. Tonight we sat outside for half an hour under a blanket watching for shooting stars of the Orionid meteor shower. We only saw one before it got too chilly, but I was grateful to know about this celestial event and to spend some quiet time under the indifferent immensity of our visible universe.

Cast Iron

I’m grateful for a clean chimney and clean reburn tubes in the cast iron stove. This is how they’re supposed to look with a hot fire, shooting random jets of reburned gas out the perforations along the front side.

I don’t really know what cast iron is: Webster defines it as “a commercial alloy of iron, carbon, and silicon that is cast in a mold and is hard, brittle, nonmalleable, and incapable of being hammer-welded but more easily fusible than steel.” All I really know is that I’m grateful for it. I’ve been kept warm in winter for more than half my life with a series of three cast iron woodstoves, and I’ve cooked for longer than that in cast iron skillets. There’s nothing like a well-tended cast iron skillet for some things. We’ll see how it works for this cinnamon-chocolate chunk skillet cookie….

I’m grateful for this trusty cast iron skillet that I’ve had for decades. Today it served me pizza for lunch, and a giant cookie for dessert tonight. I mean, only a slice of it will be for dessert tonight, it will take awhile to get through the whole thing!

Later that same evening: … So, when the directions said “Let cookie cool in skillet before slicing,” I guess it meant let it cool completely… Maybe tomorrow it will be solid, but tonight it’s warm and melty, and that’s ok too.

A Perfect Luncheon

It was a perfect day for Boyz Lunch. While I stayed inside finishing preparations my seat was stolen, and she didn’t give it up easily. The weather was perfect, the mood was perfect, the music was perfect (Radio Swiss Jazz), and the food turned out perfectly as well. I’m grateful for a perfect luncheon.

I used most of my remaining tomatoes to cook a quick sauce for pasta, and made vegetarian ‘meatballs’ with tofu and cheddar cheese. They couldn’t have been easier and were surprisingly delicious! I baked them, but think next time I might add a little olive oil to the mix and maybe fry them for the last few minutes.

For dessert I baked Teddy Roosevelt’s Clove Cake, and it came out the best it ever has at this altitude. I’ve finally, after only thirty years, gotten the altitude adjustments down! Out of curiosity, I searched online for the original recipe (which I had copied onto an index card from a yellowed newspaper clipping in my mothers recipe book) and couldn’t find it. There was an imposter which included molasses and raisins, and another ‘vintage’ recipe that came pretty close but wasn’t attributed to Teddy. Here’s my final high-altitude version:

TEDDY ROOSEVELT’S CLOVE CAKE — high altitude adapted

1 c. butter

2 c. sugar – 2 Tbsp

5 eggs

splash of vanilla extract

3 c. sifted flour + 3 Tbsp

1 T cloves

2 t cinnamon

pinch salt

1 c sour milk + 3 T

¼ t baking soda

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 10” tube pan. Cream butter and sugar til fluffy. Add beaten eggs one at a time. Sift dry ingredients together and add a third of it to mixer. Add half the milk, then another third of dry. Stir baking soda into last half of milk, then add to mixer. Add final third to batter until just mixed. Pour into pan. Bake 50-55 minutes, cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Once cake has completely cooled, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.


I’m grateful for time in my day to prepare simple, delicious meals like a tomato sandwich, or a twice-baked potato, and to put up the last of the peaches with another mini-batch of peach salsa. I’m grateful for time to exercise, and to garden, to read, write, and meet online or by phone with friends and colleagues. I’m grateful that I’ve streamlined my life so that I have time to work as well as to relax, and that I’m beginning to whittle down the distractions that claim my attention. I’m grateful above all that even during a full and busy day, I am able to find time to rest with awareness in the present moment.


Where’s Wren? She’s in the middle of the kitchen floor, where she has dragged both her beds that belong on the periphery so that I don’t step on her as I move around the kitchen. She knows she has to stay on the bed, so she just puts it where she wants it.

In my recent mostly-vegetarianism, I’m grateful for tofu, and specifically for the trick I recently learned of tossing it in cornstarch before frying it to make it extra crispy. This delicious recipe from Bon Appetit for Sesame Tofu with Broccoli made a simple dinner tonight, with leftovers for tomorrow. It was super tasty and filling, and I almost didn’t need a slice of peach pound cake for dessert, but I had one anyway, because why not. I had forgotten to get a scallion from the garden so went without that, and was so eager to eat it that I didn’t notice the toasted sesame seed part of the recipe, and still it was really yummy.

The sauce which included sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and more simmered just long enough to thicken before adding the sautéed broccoli and tofu back in and tossing to coat. So simple, so delicious!

Enough to Eat

I’m grateful for leftovers: veggie enchilada with shredded romaine and fresh garden tomato for lunch today, the last of the cauliflower soup tonight. I’m grateful that I have enough to eat, and a roof over my head, and good friends around the valley and around the country, and everything I need to bake cupcakes tomorrow.

I’m grateful that Hurricane Idalia wasn’t quite as catastrophic as she could have been in terms of human fatalities; though she’ll result in plenty of long-term suffering for millions of Americans along her ongoing path. Supporting my plea argument yesterday, R. Hubbell wrote in Today’s Edition:

         “The effects of human-caused climate change are manifesting themselves everywhere—as should be expected given the interdependence of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land masses, and ecosystems. We can feel overwhelmed if we simply catalog the many ways in which climate change manifests itself. We cannot give in to helplessness. It is never too late to make changes that will benefit current and future generations. The most important thing we can do is to elect leaders who will prioritize the reduction of reliance on fossil fuels…. It is time for all Americans to put climate change at the top of their issues list when deciding how they will cast their vote. Remember that at the GOP debate last week, Vivek Ramaswamy declared that ‘Climate change is a hoax.’ The only hoax is politicians who refuse to address a problem that is an economic and national security emergency affecting the lives of every American.”

Robert Hubbell, Todays Edition, August 30, 2023
I’m grateful for a quiet, uneventful evening walk among the late summer light and the altocumulus sky.

Zoom Cooking with Cindy!

In between Zoom Buddha School sessions today, I was grateful to zoom cook with my dear friend Cindy who lives not too far from our hometown back east. We’ve been talking for months about doing this, to support each other in preparing some healthy food for the week ahead. So we spent a couple hours this afternoon cooking enchiladas, and prepping for a creamy cauliflower soup. By the time we finished the enchiladas and sat down to eat one we were both too tired of being on our feet to make the soup, but I made it later this evening and it was SO simple, so delicious!

I’m happy to share the enchilada recipe we started from, which her friend Mary gave her. But I can’t possibly share the version I made, because I did just about everything differently than this recipe. First, I used up an assortment of garden vegetables from the freezer (instead of ground beef), including spiralized zucchini, snap peas, and sliced harissa sweet potatoes; plus a can of black beans from the pantry. I used half tomato sauce and half tomatillo sauce, added tomato paste, and used spinach-wheat tortillas. It didn’t matter. They were still delicious! I did add the grated cheddar and sour cream to the filling, which I could have eaten with a spoon except there was none left.

Once they were done baking, we sat down and ate together, and then got back to our busy days. It was fun to relax and play in our separate kitchens. I’m grateful for zoom cooking with Cindy, being able to get and to give support in an effort to bolster our health.

Simple Joys

I follow an entomologist on Instagram who posted yesterday about micro-moths, tiny beautiful creatures. When I let Wren out for midnight whiz last night and checked the high-low thermometer I spotted a micro-moth and took a picture. Nothing fancy, but tiny, and precious in its own lepidopteran way.

Where’s Wren? Hiding in the corner of the patio when the storm rolls in tonight. This morning, she spotted a young garter snake in this same location, and trembled with excitement as she sniffed and patted at it under the basket. It wasn’t her usual wasp/bee/grasshopper behavior, so I went over to check it out. I was grateful to see my first snake of the YEAR, and glad that she was so gentle in her curiosity.
First ever broccoli forest loaf (first of many) ready to go into the oven.

This morning a friend brought to mind the simple joys of an ordinary day, mentioning “pretty flowers blooming, colors that are harmonious together, birds singing.” It turned my day around. I had been lying in bed late, curled up tight like a pill bug, not wanting to get out of bed, not because I was overtly depressed, just that I didn’t want to get out of bed. Following Debi’s checkin, others mentioned a range of things that give them joy, from animal companions to functional limbs, and the brief virtual discussion stayed with me all day.

I’m grateful for the simple joys of being alive in any given moment. Today those included reading a novel, my work, a couple of meaningful conversations with family and friends, exercising, stretching, meditating, groceries, a light rain shower, Biko walking through the door and tucking himself inside as the storm approached, Buddha School, watching ‘Modern Family,’ and baking this amazing broccoli forest loaf. So simple, so delicious! And for once, my result resembles the online photo!

Learning to Cook Fish

This is the second ‘sheetpan’ tilapia I have cooked in the past month, and again it turned out so well. I’m grateful that I’m finally learning to cook fish. In the past it’s so often been dry, or underdone. Basting the fish with this simple sauce and cooking it with beans and greens of some sort has resulted in perfect moist, flaky fish both times. Today I used the marinade from one recipe and made up the vegetable mix from another recipe. I whisked a quarter cup mayonnaise with a teaspoon of lemon zest, a pinch of paprika, some grated garlic and salt, and slathered that on both sides of the fish, then arranged cannellini beans, green olives, and leeks around the filets. On top of the fish I arranged thinly sliced orange jalapeños and lemons, and baked at 300℉ for about 25 minutes. So simple, so delicious! But how did I not even think to toss in a few apricot halves, either on the baking sheet or on the plate??? Maybe because I was canning more apricot jam at the same time I was baking the fish.

Neighbors are shooting right and left, east, west, north and south of us every day, sighting their guns or target practicing for hunting season. Poor little Wren can’t stand it. After lunch outside when those annoying and frankly potentially quite dangerous pops started up, we came inside and took a nap.

Stuffed Gnocchi

Even before coffee I picked three more baskets of apricots in the cool morning air, using the step stool to reach some of the higher, riper fruits. Up at the very top the birds have left only pits on stems. Topaz has added my coffee and kindle time to her morning routine, settling in for a cuddle as I read for the past few days. I’m grateful she’s becoming more affectionate in her middle age.

I was chasing this western tiger swallowtail butterfly all around the pot when little Wren strode through. Getting a shot like this makes me ridiculously happy. If this were the only image I had to show for today I’d be very grateful.
But then I got this one and was doubly delighted.
Potato gnocchi stuffed with mushroom-cheese filling…

I’m grateful tonight for so many things, including Zoom Cooking with Amy: Gnocchi Ripieni edition. We both started yesterday, making the dough and filling ahead of time. I only got as far yesterday as baking the potatoes, which I scraped from the skins and refrigerated, then grated cheddar on and baked the skins for a snack with Penzeys Chip & Dip seasoned sour cream. What a great instant dip! So simple, so delicious!

This morning I mashed the cold potatoes and added flour, salt, an egg, and a few dashes of fresh nutmeg to make the dough. I also sautéed the mushrooms, and after they cooled blitzed them with the cheeses to make the filling.

Remember, don’t crowd the mushrooms! I just learned this wisdom recently and since then have added mushrooms to the skillet a few handfuls at a time, waiting til each batch cooks down a bit before adding the next.

Once we had our zoom drinks made, we quartered the chilled dough, and rolled each quarter, then chopped it into 15 gram rounds. A half teaspoon of filling in each, then pinched them closed and set on a tray to chill in the fridge for fifteen minutes, as we continued chatting while shaping and filling the rest of the dough.

When the second tray was filled, we swapped out trays and cooked the chilled ones in batches in boiling water until they floated. (Later I put the second tray in the freezer, and will bag the gnocchis tomorrow, to pull out and cook for next Boyz Lunch.)

As my second batch boiled I drained the first batch and kept them warm over the gnocchi water. Then we sautéed them in butter and olive oil, and at the end I added a couple tablespoons of the hot starchy water to the skillet and swirled to make a silky sauce. The recipe calls for “a pinch of parmesan.” Whoever heard of a pinch of parmesan? I grated a generous amount and topped the bowl, then we sat down to dine together.

I’m grateful for every chance I get to cook with my precious friend.